Yue Minjun

Between Men and Animal 2005
Oil on canvas
280cm x 400cm

Yue Minjun

Born 1962, Heilongjiang Province, China.
Lives and works in Beijing

Yue Minjun’s painting and sculpture always feature a figure or figures with the same laughing face. The face is modelled on his own so, in a sense, Yue Minjun is forever painting a self-portrait. However, as a result its repeated appearance, the laughing face becomes a serial image that provides an account of the condition of everyman. Yue Minjun’s toothy faces have been likened to the expansive smiles of fashion models or faces in a toothpaste commercial but, although they have their origins in advertising art and are based upon a knowledge of western pop art that several contemporary Chinese painters were attracted to in their early years, Yue Minjun draws upon the Christian iconography of the Renaissance as well as that of Chinese folklore. Rather than being a source of comfort, the smiles on Yue Minjun’s characters embody a sense of threat, their laughter is not an expression of happiness but mania, a psychosis that mocks the viewer and separates the subject from the norm. His painting Between Men and Animal, shown in Unholy Truths, depicts a crowd of identical laughing figures. From each of their heads sprout two little horns and they assume the persona's of mythical demons of wickedly playful Pans. Although we can’t see if they have human legs or the hind-quarters of a goat assigned to Pan in mythology, the title of the painting suggests a relationship between higher human nature and the baser condition of animals. Like the man/animal Pan these figures express a powerful sense of mail virility and sexuality. Each wears a black singlet that contrasts vividly with its bright pink skin, black mouth and gleaming white teeth that is enhanced by their exaggerated size on the large canvas.